Logan Lucky (2017) Review
A MILD AND PREDICTABLE
SOUTHERN HEIST CAPPER
Director, film producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor. Yes, I’m talking about Steven Soderbergh. Being critically praised for his 1989 indie drama Sex, Lies, and Videotape (winning the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival), Soderbergh went on to become a Hollywood director for several well-known films that were met with critically success / commercial success. This list includes a wide range of movies like the biographical film Erin Brockovich, the crime drama Traffic, the crime comedy Out of Sight, the medical thriller Contagion, the 2001 remake of the popular of the comedy heist feature Ocean’s 11 (and it two follow-up sequels Ocean’s 12 and Ocean’s 13), and the male stripper comedy-drama Magic Mike. Aside from directing, Soderbergh has done several filmmaking works behind the camera, looking into areas writer, cinematographer, producer, and editor (some on his own directorial projects and some on others projects). It’s been four years since HBO 2013 movie Behind the Candelabra, starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, which was his last directional film project, and now Steven Soderbergh (with Bleecker Street studio) returns to the silver screen with his latest feature titled Logan Lucky. Is Soderbergh’s southern heist capper a hidden gem of the 2017 or does tread on too much familiarity to stand on its own merits?
The Logan family has had a long run of bad luck, finding Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) as a down-on-his luck laborer who was recently dismissed from his job filling sinkholes underneath the Charlotte Motor Speedway, while his brother Clyde (Adam Driver) lost his hand in Iraq while on his way to the airport to return home. With his daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie) to support, enduring his ex-wife Bobbie Jo Logan-Chapman (Katie Holmes) and her wealthy new husband Moody Chapman (David Denman), and worrying about Clyde, Jimmy is looking to make a big score to get rid of his current woes and problems. Planning up a heist that targets the pneumatic tub cash delivery system at the Speedway, Jimmy brings his one-handed brother into the unfold as well as demolition expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), who’s currently nearing the end of a prison sentence. Reluctantly bringing in Joe’s Brothers, Fish (Jack Quaid) and Sam (Brian Gleeson) to help with the plan, along with his sister, Mellie Logan (Riley Keough), Jimmy commences a scheme that has the gang trying to infiltrate the heart of the Speedway during the heavily attended Coca-Cola 600 race. The question remains…. can it be done?
THE GOOD / THE BAD
While there are many directors out there that where many different / various “hats” behind the movie camera, Steven Soderbergh is one of the names that has stuck in my mind. I never saw Sex, Lies, and Videotapes (I do plan too someday), but his directorial work is well-known to me, with a lot of the films that I listed above I generally liked (Erin Brockovich, Magic Mike, and Traffic) to ones that I fell in love with like his Ocean’s Trilogy (consisting of Ocean’s 11, 12, and 13). Personally, while 12 was the weakest one of the trilogy, 11 and 13 did shine the brightest, establishing a fun premise with a collective cast of A-lister Hollywood stars. Love those movies
So, with the Ocean’s movies being a favorite of mine, I was sort interested in seeing Logan Lucky. I didn’t hear much about the film via internet (movie buzz and all that), but I did remember seeing the trailer for it (several times in theaters) and was intrigued by it. Of course, what got me was the film’s cast (Tatum, Driver, Craig, etc.), but also that it was also going to be somewhat similar to Soderbergh’s Ocean’s flick (recognizable stars, pulling off a big heist, etc.). So, I went into Logan Lucky with a somewhat expectation of it being a “sleeper” hit for the 2017 summer movie lineup. What I did think of it? Well, I kind of have mix feelings about it as Logan Lucky, despite its attempts, can’t outmatch Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven. Yes, it has its moments, but it just feels mediocre heist romp (with a southern aspect) than being something to standout and / or memorable.
Given its premise being a heist film, Logan Lucky is setup in a classic heist fashion, introducing its viewers to a simplistic “blue-collar” life of the movie’s protagonist character of Jimmy Logan. While his Ocean’s movies went all out with the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas (and other international destinations in 12), Soderbergh makes Logan Lucky feel small, which is a good thing, to keep up the southern rural aesthetics with the film’s setting. This means that Soderbergh doesn’t go big as the film really doesn’t need to be a very “razzle-dazzle” feature like the Ocean’s trilogy feature. Basically, Soderbergh knows what the film is and keeps it within its parameter; a primary setting of the heart of West Virginia. That’s not to say that Soderbergh seems to make Logan Lucky somewhat familiar to the Ocean’s movies, with the gathering of characters (all with a purpose in mind and personal goals in mind) and a sort “race against the clock” ordeal. In short, if you were a fan of the Ocean’s movies, you might find some humor in watching Soderbergh make a hillbilly Ocean’s flick (I sure did).
In terms of filmmaking, Logan Lucky looks slick with Soderbergh acting as the film’s cinematographer and editor. Additionally, the film’s music (composed by David Holmes) is pretty good, with a splash of that classic heist-sounding music as he has previously collaborated on several other Soderbergh projects like Ocean’s Trilogy, Haywire, and Out of Sight. Also, the film also utilizes several musical songs selection like “Fortunate Son” by Credence Clearwater Revival, “Bottle Up and Go” by Miles End, “Get Your Baby” by Mark & the Escorts, and “3374 James Road” by The Groundhogs, which helps add to the film’s country / southern film setting and nuances. Lastly, for those Game of Thrones fans out there, there is a particular hilarious scene in the movie that will make you laugh. It definitely did for me and was probably the funniest comedy sequence of the entire film.
Unfortunately, Logan Lucky does have some problems that the film can’t overcome. First, the main problem with the film is what Soderbergh is trying to mimic (i.e. his Ocean’s Eleven movies). Despite the fact that the first film was based off of 1960 of the same name, Soderbergh brought a sense of excitement, humor, and awe when crafting his interpretation of the first Ocean’s Eleven movie. As for, Logan Lucky, the movie just feels pretty “meh”. The heist aspect wasn’t as a grand as Ocean’s Eleven one (or even its sequels) as the whole plotting and playing heist for the Speedway seemed sort of mild. Also, when the story sort of deviates away from the “heist” story (the main arc in the movie), the feature sort of loses steam and becomes slightly boring rather than excitement. At least, Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven films had a somewhat entertaining feel at its low points as Logan Lucky sort of drags in certain places.
As for Logan Lucky, the film just doesn’t quite reach that level. Yes, the heist element is there and is present throughout, but there’s not much tension to sort of “up the ante” for Logan brothers (and their crew). Much like previous heist films, including the Ocean’s Eleven movies, there’s always some type of antagonist that always tries to thwart the heist team or the heist team has to overcome to complete the job. Logan Lucky really doesn’t have antagonist character, which kind of makes the heist aspect of the film a bit mundane and the overall feature somewhat bland as there’s not much to “up ante” of when the heist is being executed. Also, the film tries to create some tension while heist is in the “process”, but it just comes off as being weak and not really tension-filled. Additionally, the movie’s last fifteen minutes seems like an afterthought as it doesn’t come together quite well, especially when they introduce Hillary Swank’s character during this point. I know the angle that Soderbergh and his team were trying to achieve, but the end result feels like the rushed ending tries to bit off more than it can chew.
While Logan Lucky doesn’t have the high-profile A-lister stars that the Ocean Eleven trilogy had (i.e George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, etc.), the movie still has plenty of big stars / recognizable faces for this hillbilly heist flick. Leading the charge is actor Channing Tatum as the film’s protagonist character of Jimmy Logan. Known for his roles in 21 Jump Street, Magic Mike, and Step Up, Tatum uses likeable screen presence to play Jimmy as well-meaning but down-trodden protagonist character who cares for his family and wants to do right by them. In addition, sweet and loving relationship with his daughter Sadie serves as another likeable quality for viewers, making it easy to root for him. Also, Tatum definitely looks and acts the part of a southerner, which definitely helps buy into his portrayal of Jimmy Logan. Behind Tatum is actor Adam Driver who plays the subtler character of the two as Clyde Logan. Known for his roles in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Silence, and Girls, Driver does have that easygoing vibe while portraying Clyde, forming a soft yet effective brotherly chemistry with Tatum on-screen. Like the movie, their relationship isn’t something grandiose or emotionally driven (due to the script / narrative of the feature), but their bond is clearly visible and, while both Tatum and / or Driver won’t be particularly defined by their portrayals of Jimmy and Clyde Logan, both actors still produce enough theatrical swagger to sell them as two southern brothers as well as demonstrating their dynamic.
Behind Tatum and Driver, the more prominent character of Logan Lucky (and somewhat unexpected for this type of film) is British actor Daniel Craig as the convicted explosive expert Joe Bang. Known for his roles as the now current James Bond (i.e. Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, and Spectre) as well as Layer Cake and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (the American version), Craig brings a certain type of energy as Joe Bang in a somewhat unique role for such an actor, who normally plays a more serious / brooding characters as well some action bits. It was actually quite a surprise to see Craig as Bang (one of the reason why I wanted to see Logan Lucky) and, while it’s not the deepest character he’ll ever play in his career, it’s definitely one of the most memorable of the their more quirkiest characters Craig as ever played. In terms of supporting players, Joe Bang two dimwitted brothers (Fish and Sam) are kind of like the comically “grease monkeys” archetype heist characters. Played by Jack Quaid (The Hunger Games and Just Before I Go) and Brian Gleeson (Snow White and the Huntsman and The Flag), both actors look and play the part of two country-bumpkin characters well and are very similar to like what Casey Affleck and Scott Caan’s characters were in the Ocean’s Eleven movies (if you know what I mean). Riley Keough (It Comes at Night and American Honey) does a good job as Jimmy’s sister (who aides him in the heist plan) Mellie Logan, while Katie Holmes, known for her roles in Batman Begins, Dawson’s Creek, and Go, does a fair but good job in the smaller role of Jimmy’s ex-wife Bobbie-Jo Logan-Chapman. Lastly, Farrah Mackenzie (You Get Me and Ascension) does a great job as Jimmy’s daughter Sadie Logan.
The rest of the cast are more side characters that, while played by either talented / recognizable actors and actresses, are somewhat less important to the narrative being told, which ultimately makes them feel superfluous in nature. This includes Katherine Waterson (Alien: Covenant and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) as Jimmy’s former high school classmate who runs a mobile free clink Sylvia Harrison, David Denman (13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi and Power Rangers) as Bobbie’s new wealthy husband Moody Chapman, Sebastian Stan (Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Martian) as the comeback NASCAR race car driver Dayton White, Seth McFarlane (Ted and A Million Ways to Die in the West) as the arrogant British businessman Max Chilblain (its somewhat weird role for McFarlane to play and he’s really not that funny in it), and Hilary Swank as FBI agent Sarah Grayson (it’s really brief role for a such a role for Swank to play, who spends most of her screen-time just sneering and wearing a strange grimace on her face). These characters might fill in some small gaps here and there and / or some funny bits, but ultimately their roles (as supporting players) are just simply underdeveloped and thin, which is disappointing as most of these actors / actresses are pretty good (in their respective areas of acting.
Jimmy and Clyde Logan (and the rest of their crew) hatch a plan to see from the Charlotte Motor Speedway in the film Logan Lucky. Director Steven Soderbergh newest film definitely brings his atypical fanfare to the film’s proceedings, presenting a feature that’s well-made, has a fun heist premise (riffing on his Ocean’s Eleven movies) and that’s populated by some well-known / likeable stars. Unfortunately, the film isn’t as clever or funny has it wants to be as a predictable heist script, some overall areas / scenes of dull blandness, and afterthought ending prevent the film from being truly memorable. Personally, I though the movie was just okay. It had potential to be great, but it just ended up being, more or less, mediocre. Basically, it’s not bad, but neither really good. Thus, I would have to say that my recommendation for is an iffy-choice as some will like it (and sing its praise), while others won’t (and just find average like me). While Soderbergh has many fans of his feature films, Logan Lucky is only an adequate hit, finding that a “hillbilly heist” seems like a fun idea on paper, but not-so-much when translated to an actual motion picture. In short, it has its moments, but Logan Lucky had the potential to be better than what it was, which is a shame.
3.3 Out of 5 (Iffy-Choice)
Released On: August 18th, 2017
Reviewed On: September 15th, 2017
Logan Lucky is 118 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for language and some crude comments